A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

What Does A Million In Sales Mean?

It may be a long way to the top, but it’s even harder staying there. A lot of artists talk about the glory days, of selling a million plus albums and “having success”. They are loved and they are all over the press and magazines. Then their “fanbase” based on sale metrics move on and suddenly, the record label is not returning their calls.

Dokken, Ratt, Warrant, Poison, Love/Hate, Slaughter, White Lion, Anthrax, WASP, MSG, Stryper and Yngwie Malmsteen come to mind.

It doesn’t matter what artists did in the past. If their new album isn’t getting played on radio, (not Pandora Radio, actual DJ programmed Radio) then it’s the hard sell of the road for them. And if they don’t have the means and the smarts to hit the road, then it’s even a harder sell.

Y&T is still cleaning up on the road, despite never being on the covers of the magazines, or darlings of MTV or even having a number one mainstream hit. It’s because they are a band made outside the record label system. It was all about touring and gaining fans, city by city, state by state, country by country. Add to that list Tesla.

You notice that the acts that continue to sell and have high streams are constant on radio.

Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Pop Evil, Disturbed and Seether have the top 5 songs on Active Rock Radio right now in the U.S. As a by-product of the radio play, the bands are moving product. Volbeat is another that continues to sell.

This is what Nikki Sixx meant. He saw no point in Motley Crue spending time writing and releasing an album, when Active Rock Radio would just ignore it and the Classic Rock stations would just play the old Crue songs.

Radio was never the be all and end all. The best bands developed slowly. No classic rock band was an overnight sensation. The MTV era, killed off a lot of bands by setting the expectation that all of the artists it played had millions upon millions of fans. MTV video clips sold advertisements. As a byproduct records got sold as well. That led to recorded music revenue.

Recorded music revenue, never got to the bands. Sure the bands got advances to record their albums and they probably felt like rock and roll stars during it, but the truth is the $500K advance or even the $1MIL advance, (that had to be paid back anyway) pales to the revenue the record label got in return. If an album sold a million copies at say $10 gross; that is $10 million in gross sales. Of course some of it would be kept by the record store, some of it by the manufacturers of the LP and all the rest would go to the label and somehow the band would still be in debt.

When Bon Jovi started writing the songs for “Slippery When Wet”, Jon and Richie were still living with their parents and had a million dollar debt to the label, even though they had two albums certified “Gold”. Pretty glamorous right.

In 1987, White Lion released their second album and their first on a major label, “Pride”. It had the single “Wait”, which on release did nothing. It was followed by “Tell Me” which also did nothing. However, the band was still on tour, opening up for Frehley’s Comet, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, AC/DC and Stryper. It was during this touring cycle that “Wait” started to get some serious MTV rotation, seven months after it was released. Hot on the heels of “Wait” climbing the charts, the label released “When The Children Cry” which ended up pushing the “Pride” album into the two million mark. “All You Need Is Rock ‘N’ Roll” followed and the White Lion tour in support of the album, ended in August 1988. High fives all around. Vito was in every guitar magazine and Mike Tramp was posing in every other magazine. Pretty glamorous right.

By August the following year, “Big Game” was released. The album went Gold right off the bat, based from the goodwill that “Pride” created. The band went from 2 million U.S sales to 500K US Sales. “Little Fighter” didn’t catch on, nor there cover of “Radar Love”. “Cry for Freedom” is one of their best songs, however it looks like their serious subject matter about Apartheid just didn’t resonate with the hard rock community. “Goin’ Home Tonight” also came out as a single and disappeared quickly. The band toured, however as Vito Bratta stated in his Eddie Trunk interview, the songs just didn’t resonate with the audiences. The Monsters of Rock bill that had “White Lion” sandwiched between other bands sealed the deal in Vito’s mind that they needed to go back and write some real rock songs. The downward spiral was starting. Vito still had the Guitar covers but he was questioning how to write a “hit” as the label asked them to do. Pretty glamorous right.

So White Lion took a million bucks and went away to write and record their fourth album, “Mane Attraction”. It came out in 1991 and six months later it was all over. It received no radio play. The real fans of the band loved it. But the band wanted the 2 million fans from “Pride”. The label wanted 4 million fans. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the casual listeners like songs more than they like the artist, especially songs that crossover. “Wait” and “When The Children Cry” crossed over and fans of other genres picked up the album. It didn’t mean that White Lion had 2 million loyal listeners. So fast forward to 1991 and White Lion can’t even move, 500K units on their new album. Actually they get nowhere near that figure. They are seen as a failure.

“Love Don’t Come Easy” didn’t sell the message of the new listening public. “Lights and Thunder” came out and no one knew what the hell Mike Tramp meant when he sang, “There’ll be lights and thunder”. The re-recorded version of the band’s debut single “Broken Heart”, also didn’t resonate with the listeners at large. Atlantic Records dropped them not long after.

Once you’re in the spiral vortex, it is not easy to get out off it. And the audience, like it or not, always gravitates to what is successful. Tastes change and moods change. Life becomes complicated. The thing is when an album doesn’t outdo it’s predecessor, it’s labelled a flop. And no one, even the record label can understand why. Once upon a time, the label would probably go for another album to see what happens. Today, as soon as it starts going wrong, no one from the label hangs around. They move on.

So what does the artist do?

They doubt their creative process, quit the business or soldier on for a few more years. But the lifers go on forever.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Ripped Off – Here Is My Middle Finger Salute

“Gettin’ ripped off, underpaid” ….. from “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll”

Bon Scott knew his stuff. For a person who had been trying to make it for a long time, he was well seasoned and experienced enough to come up with some great lyrics. He was a perfect fit to the youthism of the Young brothers. If you take the time to dig deep into his lyrics, you will notice a certain theme of being ripped off by promoters and record label execs, which is polar opposite to what artists are saying today. With so much backlash against streaming services and royalty payments, more and more artists are going on record to state that the “fan doesn’t support and respect music”.

So how can the music industry explain how bands that have performed live have not been paid the monies owed to them by the promoters?

The fans that supposedly “don’t support and respect music” purchased their $180 plus concert ticket. Surely this is a show of support to the acts on the bill that people value and respect music.

“So if you’ve got the money, we’ve got the sound,
You put it up and we’ll put it down,
If you got the dollar, we got the song,
Just wanna boogie woogie all night long” ….. from “Aint No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)”

For those that don’t know, the 2016 Soundwave Festival in Australia has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales. However, the roots of the problems go back. From the 2015 edition of Soundwave, a lot of bands are still owed money from their festival appearance.

For the full list, click on this link.

Here is a selection of a few;

The main artists;

  • Soundgarden — $2,132,075.00
  • Slipknot — $1,645,299.29
  • The Smashing Pumpkins — $1,267,446.43
  • Faith No More — $751,076.20
  • Marilyn Manson — $588,000.56
  • Incubus — $571,428.58
  • Slash — $484,628.00
  • Fall Out Boy — $394,107.14
  • Judas Priest — $349,560.55
  • Ministry — $203,952.01
  • Godsmack — $200,000.00
  • Lamb of God — $161,323.33

The medium-sized and self-financed artists;

  • Papa Roach — $93,050.93
  • Steel Panther — $92,517.57
  • Fear Factory — $78,263.96
  • Apocalyptica — $65,601.90
  • Falling In Reverse — $54,064.98
  • Atreyu — $52,044.64
  • New Found Glory — $43,279.88
  • Nothing More — $35,000.00
  • Of Mice and Men — $29,040.00
  • Killer Be Killed — $24,513.00
  • Escape the Fate — $21,985.68
  • Dragonforce — $21,000.00
  • Monuments — $19,153.00
  • Animals as Leaders — $16,607.14
  • Nonpoint — $8,137.54
  • Ne Obliviscaris — $5,720.60

Commissions to an agency for organising acts;

  • Live Nation Worldwide, Inc — $1,180,325.56

That’s some serious dollars taken from the hard-working hands of the fans and not paid to the artists. You see, a fan believes that the act would be getting their cut. It’s an unwritten law that it will happen. The fan also knows that the promoter, venue and so forth would also get their cut. Which in a lot of cases is more than the acts cut.

“Living on a shoe string,
A fifty cent millionaire,
Open to charity,
Rock ‘n’ roller welfare” ….. from “Down Payment Blues”

Life is tough and when you don’t get paid, it’s even tougher, because we all have other commitments that we need to make. So are the fans to blame again for not supporting music.

Are the fans to blame when managers, promoters and record labels rip off the artists?

“It’s a song (“I Believe In You) I wrote a long time ago. Well a long time before it got put on a record, which is kind of a drag in a way because our original managers ripped us off for our publishing (on) the first two Yesterday and Today records. We haven’t received a penny publishing to this day from those two records. I wrote “I Believe in You” about the time they were managing us so when I put it on the “Earthshaker” record well after they were gone they still took my publishing and never gave me a cent for “I Believe In You”. Anyway it was written a long time ago about a break up that I had with a long-time relationship I had with a girl so the song inspired itself more or less.”
Dave Meniketti 

There is a lot of money to be made in music and the fans are spending. The fans respect music and value music. It’s a shame that the corporate entities that benefit largely from the music that artists create don’t value and respect music in the same way.

Unless Artists make a stand and take back their copyrights or organise better rates for themselves when they sell/license their rights to the corporations, then that copyright royalty pay rise will just end up with the corporate entity the artists sold their copyrights too.

SoundExchange, the organization that collects royalties is considering an appeal at the Copyright Tribunals decision to increase the royalty rate that Pandora and other stations needs to pay.

Now why would SoundExchange want to do that?

It’s because they have collected over $3 billion dollars in royalties since 2003 and once you take their standard 30% administration costs, it adds up to a lot of money for SoundExchange for doing absolutely nothing. But they want more of that pie.

Artists as usual get short-changed by all of the corporations taking their cut. And even when they perform live, it looks like they are still being shafted by the promoters.

In Australia, the recording industry revenues are growing and have been since 2012. And what was the defining moment in 2012 that caused this shift in revenue.

Of course, it was the arrival of Spotify in May 2012.

And that is what fans of music do. We double dip. I like to stream and on occasions I love owning something physical from the artists that I support.

Since 2008, those physical purchases include only the special deluxe pieces of art that bands produce. To pay $30 for a DVD/CD special edition album release is just not worth it. I would rather pay the $12 a month Spotify subscription and access that digitally. Recently, I was one of 40,000 people who purchased Coheed and Cambria’s “The Color Before The Sun” Super Deluxe Edition for $70US and I am one of many who have pre-ordered Dream Theater’s new album “The Astonishing” for $170.

Music doesn’t exist without its best customer; the fan. So as a fan, here is a big middle finger salute to all of those comments about fans of music not respecting music.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Guess What: Not A Lot Has Changed

“In 1981, there was a crackdown after the big payola scandal of the late 70s. Right at the beginning of the 80s, the record companies were being safe. They were not handing out advances. They would advance your recording budget, but that was it.”
Brian Forsythe – Kix

So what has changed in 2015.

The record labels are still being safe and with recording costs so low, the recording budget is even lower.

Yeah, of course, we all know that the record labels had a massive boom that started with “Thriller” in 1984 and that allowed them to take more risks. And for some reason it looks like musicians and the labels are only looking at the boom when they compare now vs then. Typical revisionist history.

“None of us knew what we were doing. We were just so excited to have a record deal. There are writer’s royalties, and the mechanical royalties that go to the band. The record company gets paid back through the mechanical until the bill (advancement) is paid off. Donnie was the main songwriter, so he was still getting his (writers) money. By the time we got to “Blow My Fuse” – our biggest selling record – we were two million dollars in debt.” 
Brian Forsythe – Kix

Even in the era of information, with everything is at our fingertips, artists are still unaware of their entitlements. And when they do find out, it is the crux of every argument. Especially between band members because every band has a person that just writes better songs than the others at certain points of time, or in some cases always. Kix’s bass player Donnie Purdell, was another Nikki Sixx. He was crucial to Kix.

It should act as no surprise to anyone that bands in the Seventies, Eighties or Nineties, ended up with such large debts to the label. That is the label creative accounting machine at its best. And the shameful part of it all is that current musicians still look at the past to gauge what success means in 2015.

“Go pull up the sales for 1985, 1986 for heavy metal bands. I guarantee you it’s ten times what it is now. That doesn’t mean there’s ten times less fans — in fact, I think there’s more heavy metal fans now than possibly there ever was. But the bottom line is the numbers show that metal bands are not selling what they did back in the day, and that’s because of Internet piracy. I don’t wanna get on that subject, because it always turns into a depressing, negative subject, but it is a fact. So the answer to the question, ‘Would that record sell more in 1985?’ I would say the answer would be yes.”
Shawn Drover – Act of Defiance

Shawn Drover, wishes it was 1985 and 1986 because for some reason, he believes that he will have more money in his pocket and if his new band “Act Of Defiance” sold a million copies of an album, they would be mega rich and popular. Brian Forsythe from Kix, lived that period and ended up with a $2 million debt, even though they had albums that sold in excess of a million.

And guess what venues they are playing right now?

Clubs and theaters.

Dokken albums achieved Platinum awards and the band today plays clubs and theaters. Stryper and Ratt albums achieved Platinum awards and the bands today play clubs and theaters.

A sale of a record never equaled a fan. It’s the usual comparison between;

  • a person that purchased a record, heard it once and hated it
    vs
  • a person that purchased a record, heard it, loved it and listened to it every day
    vs
  • a person that purchased a record, heard the popular songs and then moved on to whatever else was popular

So why do artists still see sales as important today?

Metal and rock artists still sell. There is no doubt about that. Especially the ones that connect with audiences. But sales is not the only stat that artists should be basing their careers on.

With all of the streaming services out there, the most important stat is how many listens an artist is getting and in which cities they are getting those listens.

The second most important stat is how many illegal P2P downloads an artist is getting and in which cities they are getting these illegal downloads. These listeners/downloaders need to be monetized in different ways.

Otherwise if you are an artist and you are waiting for profits to come in from recorded music sales, then you need to change your business model.

“I’ve never seen a check. Donnie probably still gets writer’s royalty checks. The rest of the money is going back to the record company. Donnie was such a better songwriter. For every 20 songs he would write, I would write one. We were working on his songs all the time and we never even had time to write our own stuff. Back in the early days I may have gotten a couple checks. The biggest one was maybe $350. One time I remember getting one for $1.99. I could count the amount of checks I’ve received on one hand.”
Brian Forsythe – Kix

Remember all of the stories that have come out over the last five years from artists complaining about their low royalty payouts from streaming services. Guess that in 30 years nothing much has really changed. For the small amount of 1% artists that have broken through to mega status, it’s all good.

For the rest, it is still the same story.

“The standard stat given is that 90% of major label deals “fail.” That does not mean they are not profitable for the label. The way RIAA accounting works, the labels can make out like a bandit on many of those record deals, while the artist gets hung out to dry.”
Mike Masnick, Techdirt

Nothing has changed on that front, even with the rise of the internet, Napster, P2P illegal downloading and so forth. The 90% stat was relevant even in the golden years of recorded music sales and it is still relevant now.

“We never expected to get rich, but we certainly didn’t expect to be millions of dollars in debt.”
Jared Leto – Thirty Seconds To Mars

No artist expects to get rich. The need to create is the calling card. However, when they start making money and they see the recording executives living it up while the actual creators are not, then money becomes an important conversation point.

The recording industry has always been known for its creative accounting.

Remember when Tom Petty declared himself bankrupt to get out of a recording contract because he had no money to show after two very successful albums in the seventies.

It all goes against what Gene Simmons said about rock music in general being murdered due to internet piracy. It’s a very narrow-minded and hostile view to have to all of the change that has happened in music. It also mimics, the view that the record labels have held.

A hostile one.

However as Tim Westergren, the Chief Strategy Officer – Pandora (until last year) states;

“I think we’re moving out of an era where the music industry is looking for enemies and into one where it’s now looking for allies.”

The record labels have been dragged kicking and screaming into cassettes, mp3’s and then streaming. Guess what happened. It increased their bottom line on all occassions. Guess that not much has changed in the era of change when it comes to record label abuses.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

Rock/Metal Quotes

“Our first deal, for example, was for five records, so there was development there. They looked at it as: ‘Let’s invest in these first two records, and if nothing happens, no big deal. Maybe the third record will be the turning point, and then four and five we’re on the gravy train.’ I think that was the record company’s perspective.”
Alex Lifeson. RUSH

It was always the fan that had the power. Fans invest in the artist. It never mattered what the record company thought or believed as it was the fan who decided if the piece of vinyl was worth their money. The labels had the gatekeeping power to decide who got to a recording studio or who didn’t. And they used that power wisely to accumulate artists’ copyrights.

“If we were to release those same three records now: Fly By Night – the record company would’ve gone, ‘Okay, let’s hang on.’ With Caress of Steel, they would’ve dropped us right away, because it was a commercially unsuccessful record, but we needed to make that record to make 2112. So there would be no 2112 for Rush in 2015. I’d go back to plumbing or some other job. That just doesn’t exist now, whereas back then, as nervous as they were, they still were there to support us.”
Alex Lifeson. RUSH

The labels did not support the artist. They supported a copyright monopoly. Their accountants knew very early on that holding the copyrights for songs would be a big financial winner for them in the future. The labels have used their accumulated copyrights as leverage to negotiate licence fees with Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer and all of the other streaming services.

To prove my point, let’s look at an Italian hard rock/metal label called Frontiers Records. Look at the albums they have released, especially in the last five years. You will see a trend of certain artists, re-recording their best songs from the Eighties and Seventies and putting these recorded versions under a new Copyright. Frontiers will pay the artist for their work, and they keep the copyrights of these forgeries for a very long time.

Who is the winner here?

The artist or the record label.

“For new bands, everybody makes CDs. Years ago, nobody had CDs. You had to have a record deal. Everybody’s got it [now]. And there’s so much competition. The Internet is good in a way to get your stuff out there, but the whole music industry is wrecked.”
Vinny Appice. DIO, BLACK SABBATH, HEAVEN AND HELL,

“For me, it’s an interesting dichotomy. Because, on one hand, you’ve got people who are streaming, but then they use that to decide whether or not they wanna buy the album, as opposed to illegal downloading. But then there’s the other side of it where people are kind of using it as, basically, satellite radio, where it’s, like, ‘I’m just gonna listen to this.’ But people still pay a subscription for it. So, in one way or another, the economy is still working. It’s just that… We can’t catch up with the technology; that’s the problem. There’s so many innovations that the powers that be can’t figure out… they can’t get ahead of it.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

The gatekeepers are no more. It’s an open market and simple economics rule. Supply vs Demand. Music at the moment is in huge supply and the demand from the fans is spread thin.

For example, in the next three months there are about 40 albums that I am interested in listening too.

For August, I am looking forward to Soulfly’s “Archangel”, Bon Jovi’s “Burning Bridges”, Disturbed’s “Immortalized”, Pop Evil’s “Up”, Five Finger Death Punch’s “Got Your Six”, Fear Factory’s “Genexus”, Bullet for My Valentine’s “Venom”, Act of Defiance’s “Birth and the Burial”, P.O.D.’s “The Awakening”, Motörhead’s “Bad Magic” and Soilwork’s “The Ride Majestic”.

For September, I am looking forward to Shinedown’s new one, Iron Maiden’s “The Book of Souls”, Slayer’s “Repentless” and Atreyu’s “Long Live”.

For October, I am looking forward to Children of Bodom’s “I Worship Chaos”, Collective Soul’s “See What You Started by Continuing”, Coheed and Cambria’s “The Color Before the Sun”, Deftones new one, Queensrÿche’s “Condition Hüman”, Sevendust’s “Kill the Flaw”, Trivium’s “Silence in the Snow”, W.A.S.P.’s “Golgotha” and Stryper’s “Fallen”.

Some I would buy and a lot I would just stream WHEN I HAVE THE TIME.

“All due respect to Mr. Simmons, I think when he talks about rock being dead, I think he talks about the old-school way of album-tour-album-tour-album-tour. That’s just not the way you do it anymore. There’s so many other things and ways to continue the history of this industry, and to continue to be on top. I mean, I’m looking out at headlining Download [festival] in the U.K. [Sarcastically] Yeah, rock is dead. That’s why there’s 85,000 people here at 11:30 at night in a downpour, and nobody left. Yeah, rock’s dead. Yeah.”

Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

Spot on. Fans of music haven’t disappeared and they haven’t resorted to freemium as the labels or the RIAA would like us to think. Fans still support music and artists in their own way. I purchase CD’s, I stream music, I download music and I go to concerts. The old model of album sales and then a tour is broken. So a new model is required.

“Well, we have such an incredible reaction to [JUDAS PRIEST’s latest album] ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ that really motivated us to crack the whip and get on with making the next record pretty quickly. The clock is ticking, you know. We can’t afford to wait three years, or five years now, to make the record. And especially while we’re having this great, kind of, vibe with the fans and just this massive PRIEST family love fest type of deal. You know, who wants to go home and sit down for a year?”
Rob Halford. JUDAS PRIEST

“Fewer records get sold or streamed, less money is there,” he continued. “You used to sell enough records to not go on tour. In the 90s, you used to make as much money on tour as you would selling records. Now you make one-tenth of that money on records sales or streaming. The biggest problem with the new record business is that I don’t know who the fans are. Fans are the people who will actually pay for something.”
Peter Mensch. MANAGER

They (the recording industry) have to. But probably the best route they should take, I think they’ve been playing catch-up for a long time — they’re constantly trying to readjust and adapt. I think that probably the truth of the matter, the answer is to start from scratch and create a whole new playbook. Build a whole new business plan off of that. I don’t think anybody, at least that I’m aware of, has done that, started with just a blank slate and just started over. I think that’s really what needs to be done. Just level the building and build something brand new.”
Dee Snider. TWISTED SISTER

Fans are people who will actually pay for something when they want to pay. Growing up the Eighties, I had a circle of friends who would wait with blank cassettes for the latest music I purchased. We had a running joke to say “the leeches are in the house”. These fans copied Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Whitesnake, Night Ranger and so many other bands from me. Their whole music collection was dubbed music.

So time goes on, they get older, they get jobs, the internet comes, Napster rises and suddenly they have money to spend. They didn’t start to purchase recorded music, they just downloaded that for free. What they did start to purchase was concert tickets for the bands they liked. When Maiden toured Australia for the “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” tour, they went to the shows in Sydney and Melbourne. I only went to the Sydney shows. When Motley Crue came for the Carnival Of Sins tour they went to the shows around Australia. I only went to the Sydney show. When Metallica came, they went to the shows around Australia, plus the Soundwave shows and so on. When Megadeth came, they went to their shows.

“Because, at the end of the day, it’s about people knowing the music, not owning it.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

Perfectly said.

“The only thing that’s really been affected is albums sales. Because there’s still just as many rock fans out there as there were, and there’s a whole new generation coming up. I mean, the contracts that you signed back then — even today — you’d have to sell five, six million at a pop to be able to turn a profit. So, for people like me, it wasn’t about making money off the album sales. I mean, it’s be nice, but it wasn’t the essential.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

“I’m talking about the cost to buy a CD. You can get a brand new record from your favourite band for ten dollars, basically. And even that’s high, ’cause most bands will sell ’em cheaper, especially the first or two the records are out. So, for ten bucks you can get a new record. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that CDs cost $18.99 at the Virgin Megastore. Records cost half what they used to cost, and people aren’t buying them as much, which is crazy to me. It’s never been cheaper. What more do the people want?”
Scott Ian. ANTHRAX

No one wanted to buy an album. WE WANTED TO LISTEN TO MUSIC. It was unfortunate that the music we wanted to listen to was put on a piece of vinyl or a CD or a cassette and sold at a very high price.

“For me, the album is the calling card. You hope people are hearing the music, but it’s not essential to sell the music, and that’s the thing you kind of have to balance today.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

“Right now I don’t even know what the music business is. I have no idea. There’s no record stores. We live in Los Angeles, and the radio sucks. It’s better elsewhere. The bands put an album out, and they don’t play it. Then everybody downloads it for free. And it’s a mess. ‘Cause people need to earn money when they play music, just like you go earn money when you go to work. It costs money to make an album. You can’t just give it away for free.”
Vinny Appice. DIO, BLACK SABBATH, HEAVEN AND HELL,

But it’s not for free. The album that you recorded has been put up on a streaming site. The label that put it up was paid a fee to license the music they have on that streaming site. Speak to your label and re-negotiate. When people listen to your album, 70% of the monies go to your label. Again, speak to your label and re-negotiate.

What is better?

A million streams or a 1000 units in sales. A million streams shows a large audience supporting your product that is waiting to be monetized in other ways.

1000 units in sales shows a 1000 people who purchased your music and then maybe listened to it once or twice or a lot. The problem is the artists don’t know either way if those 1000 units in sales are fans or not.

“Cause people are still buying CDs, but they’re also buying music on iTunes, they’re paying for accounts on Spotify. So it’s not like they’re not hearing the music. So when they come and see the show, and you play a song that is brand new and you get that huge pop, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about that live show”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

“I understand there’s a thing called the Internet and people have the ability to steal music. So I understand why it’s happening, but you would think that people would just have the attitude, ‘I’m gonna support music, I’m gonna support the bands I love, because if I don’t support this, well, the bands I love aren’t gonna be able to make records anymore and they’re not gonna be able to tour as much anymore.”
Scott Ian. ANTHRAX

Scott Ian is unfortunately stuck in the sales equals success mentality. As Corey Taylor has stated, fans of music support the bands they like in different ways. A typical fan could fit into any of the following combinations;

– Stream for free only
– Stream for free and purchase tickets to a show
– Stream on a paid subscription only
– Stream on a paid subscription only and purchase tickets to a show
– Stream for free and purchase a CD/mp3 only
– Stream for free and purchase a CD/mp3 and purchase tickets to a show
– Stream on a paid subscription and purchase a CD/mp3 only
– Stream on a paid subscription, purchase a CD/mp3 and purchase tickets to a show
– Purchase a CD/mp3 only
– Purchase a CD/mp3 and purchase tickets to a show
– Illegally download for free only
– Illegally download for free and then purchase a CD
– Illegally download for free, purchase a CD and purchase tickets to a show
– Illegally download for free and purchase tickets to a show

“Look, if I was a kid, and it was 1977 and I had a way to get KISS albums for free, I’m pretty sure I probably would have jumped on that bandwagon. But for me to get a free KISS album in 1977 would have meant having the balls to walk into a record store, take a vinyl album, stick it under my shirt and walk out without getting caught. There was a consequence to that. So it’s a completely different thing [today]. There’s no consequence to stealing music online … or anything: movies, or books, or anything.”
Scott Ian. ANTHRAX

Look Scott, when you were a kid, I am sure that you copied an album onto a cassette tape. That is called Copyright Infringement. This is the problem that you face with the internet. People have copied your music and are spreading your music via the Internet. No one has stolen anything. The iTunes mp3 is still available for purchase, the Anthrax albums are still available for streaming and so forth.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

Being A Musician Means ….

I still have the debate with people about the economics of being a musician vs earning money and the debate always ends with me asking the question;

Would a musician prefer to have their song or album shared/copyright infringed on/pirated (use whatever word you want, depending on what side of the debate you are on) 100,000 times or ignored and not shared at all?

The same conversations come up over and over again.

Musicians are either complaining about streaming payouts, copyright infringement/piracy of their music or jumping in with the corporations or the lobby groups looking for stronger copyright laws and enforcement. However, the music business wouldn’t be a business if it wasn’t for the fans. The customer. The consumer.

So what value is there to the consumer?

You see once upon a time, the musician and the consumer met with the RECORD. The record was an attempt by the musician to make something unique and likeable that it could be purchased.

A musician and a listener met with a performance via Radio, a TV spot or some other form of promotion.

This kind of listener might not end up as a consumer of the recorded product however there was always a good chance that this listener might end up at a concert hence making them a consumer in a way. From buying the record or from buying a ticket to the show, all of the exchanges are very one-sided. It is all about money leaving the consumer and going to the musician. The musician believes that the value comes in the music they provide.

With so much competition in the entertainment industry these days, surely obscurity is a much larger threat to a musician than copyright infringement will ever be. The more a musicians’ music spreads, the more true fans they will find that will end up becoming consumers. It doesn’t mean that all of those people will become consumers.

There is tons of music available that I will listen to. I enjoy doing that, however it doesn’t mean I like it enough to become a true fan and invest in the artist. However with Spotify I am investing in them by listening to them. In the past, I could listen to an artist from a taped copy or a mix CD and the artist got nothing from those listens. In the end each consumer has so much money to spend on entertainment products.

I like drinking wine and one thing I have learned from all the drinking I have done is that the price of the wine is not always indicative of the quality. So with all of the discussions about taking away Spotify’s free tier, it doesn’t mean that people will suddenly start to pay for a subscription. Just because music has a price, it doesn’t mean that it is something of quality that needs to be paid for.

There are other similarities between the winemaking business and the music business. Even in the wine making business, there are brilliant wine makers from around the world trying to break through the monopolies that control different markets.

Just like artists starting off, young wine makers invest a lot of time and money in their craft/product without knowing if that investment will pay off. They do it because they love it. The weather could be that severe/extreme that years could go by with so little yield and zero income. And once they produce that wine, it doesn’t mean that they have a consumer base to market it too.

Anyone gone wine tasting. You are physically at the door of the wine maker’s house where they open up bottles of wine and allow you to sample them. That is how wine makers form their tribe. By their cellar doors.

Metallica are kings of the hill because they formed a tribe around the people who heard their music and those fans followed the band everywhere. It didn’t mean that all of those fans purchased their music. And then Lars Ulrich did his best to divorce the band from its fan base with the Napster shenanigans. However the boat already sailed, with a lot of free music from Metallica doing the rounds. All of this copyright infringement established a whole new tribe for Metallica that is still sustaining them to this day. Yep those free loaders from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Central/South America have become consumers to their sold out shows.

The fans are all a musician has.

Warren Buffet (investor) has an investment rule that rings true here when I think about the current status of some of my favourite artists;

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

Tidal is all about greed. Taking away Spotify’s free tier is all about greed. Destroying the public domain by hijacking copyrights true intent is all about greed. The whole music business is about income inequality.

So can anyone blame us when we, the consumers became fearful of greedy people.

I support what is in my opinion the best music. I know other people’s opinions differ from mine. That’s just life.

As a musician I would be happy if my music was downloaded illegally 100,000 times and I am not one of those deluded people that equates those illegal downloads to 100,000 missed sales.

Do the math.

With no downloads a musician has no fans/listeners/future consumers and no cash.

With a 100,000 downloads via cyber lockers or torrents, the musician has possibly 100,000 fans and no cash at this point in time. I know what I would prefer.

There is a reason why Metallica and Iron Maiden have played to large audiences in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, China and South/Central America respectively and it has nothing to do with sales of recorded music.

Fame always came after however MTV made everyone believe that fame comes first.

And musicians in most cases are ignored for long periods of time before they break through.

Five Finger Death Punch is a band that sells a decent amount of recorded music right now and they have been doing those numbers since 2007. However the musicians in the band didn’t just come from out of nowhere. If you look at the individual band members careers before FFDP, you will see musicians who have been ignored. Their previous bands did not set the world on fire, however it was all stepping-stones. And the musicians that have that mindset end up reaching the top. The ones that want only the fame and the money end up in the rear view mirror.

Europe is a band that I have followed since “The Final Countdown” days. I purchased their back catalogue once that album broke through. I purchased John Norum’s solo output and I hold the “Face The Truth” album (with Glenn Hughes doing vocals on quite a few songs) in high regard. I followed Joey Tempest solo albums and with pleasure I took in their comeback from 2004 and onwards.

The first version of the band came together in 1979 and was named Force. Via a song writing contest they got a recording deal in 1982 with a Swedish label. By 1985, they had some songs in a movie that gave me some more traction. Joey Tempest wrote a song for aid in Ethiopia however at this stage the band was still largely ignored. That all changed in 1986 with “The Final Countdown” album. The journey was seven years long. Compare that to some of the ideals today of musicians. They believe that by putting up a video or a song on YouTube, we should all pay attention.

Michael Poulsen from Volbeat was in a death metal band called Dominus from 1991 to 2000. Then he formed Volbeat in 2001. Their first album came out in 2005. For the next seven years they kept on building on their following and it wasn’t until Metallica took them out as an opening band that American success came knocking. By 2012, Volbeat was a big business.

Do the math on the years in between. Poulsen became an overnight success however that success was 21 years in the making and a large part of those years dealt with being ignored.

That is what being a musician is.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Saints (Winners) and Sinners (Losers)

WINNER
Machine Head are doing the opposite of what all the other bands are doing. Playing smaller venues, selling them out and doing “An Evening With..” extravaganza. The prices of tickets are affordable and not extravagant. This is one band that realizes their niche place in the metal music business and they play to their core audience, the Headcases.

In Robb Flynn, they have one of the best frontmen in thrash/metal circles that is not afraid to take a stance on an issue. He speaks to his core audience via his journals. He controls his own narrative and not the press, which is the downfall of a lot of other artists.

Flynn, along with Monte Conner from Nuclear Blast have realized that music is all about the souvenirs. The “Killers and Kings” single release for Record Store Day with the four different tarot covers proved once again that if people believe in the artists, they will spend their money. Machine Head weren’t selling music, they were selling collectibles. I purchased all four and I still haven’t opened them.

WINNER
Megadeth. As a guitarist I didn’t really dig Broderick’s uninspired lead breaks so I am pretty happy that he has left. Just because a person is super technical it doesn’t mean they are good songwriters. Seriously put those lead breaks up against the jazzy shred work of Chris Poland, the neo – classical shred metal of Marty Friedman, the tasteful phrasing of Al Pitrelli and the pentatonic chaos of Dave Mustaine and you will see where Broderick stacks up. Drummers are plentiful so I am sure that Megadeth will have no issues here finding one that will suit.

LOSERS
Chris Broderick and Shaun Drover.

The history of guitarists and drummers that have departed Megadeth is vast. The real good ones have had stellar careers pre and post Megadeth. Marty Friedman had a fan base before he joined and then he became a Japanese musical icon post Megadeth. Al Pitrelli also had an established fan base prior to joining and he was already in demand as a session guy and touring guitarist for various projects. Chris Poland did “Damn The Machine” which was an unbelievable album/band that wasn’t embraced by the waves of change that happened to metal in 1993 and Poland’s instrumental album “Return To Metalopolis” was also a favourite back in the day.

WINNER
Streaming. Fans of music didn’t care at all that The Pirate Bay got raided or that Kickass Torrents got taken down. Those raids/takedowns are all pure PR stunts by the associations and a waste of money/legal resources because copyright for the last 15 years has been hijacked and used purely for criminal pursuits and nothing to do with aiding the artist.

LOSERS
Artists and entities that compare the streaming dollars earned today to those pre 1999 sales dollars without understanding that streaming is all about scale. The more people using the platform, the higher the payments will be in the future. But no one can look that far, when everyone thinks about “right now”. The ones complaining about streaming royalties just don’t have enough fans interested in listening to their music consistently.

WINNER
Slash. He has shown that he is more Guns N Roses than Axl Rose is. His output has been solid via his many projects, like Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, Slash (the guest vocalist album) and now Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. He is doing what every other musician should be doing, which is releasing product and touring.

LOSER
Duff McKagan. His views on piracy/copyright infringement are restricting him from doing what he needs to do, which is, to create music.

WINNER
Dee Snider. His views on Doug Aldrich are spot on.

LOSER
Doug Aldrich. He’s a good guitar player but nowhere in the league of the Eighties guitarist he was competing against when he was with “Lion”. For the years he has been involved in music, there is not one definitive song/riff that can be attributed to Doug Aldrich.

WINNER
Data. The era of feeling it or rorting the charts is over. It’s all about the fans and what they listen too.

LOSER
Sales. Just because Spotify is killing off piracy, it doesn’t mean that people will start to buy physical CD’s, vinyls or pay to download MP3’s again. Seriously there is a lot of rubbish reporting out there stating something like “sales are worse now since Spotify has entered the market”. Well, hello genius, Spotify and streaming for that matter are also competing with sales.

WINNER
George Lynch. He realizes it’s all about the music and without making new music, he has no career. That’s why people come back. Lynch Mob, his solo career, KXM, Sweet and Lynch and now the announcement of a new project called “The Infidels” which is another pseudo-supergroup.

LOSER
Don Dokken. Without the involvement of Lynch and Pilson in the songwriting department, the band Dokken is a shadow of its former self.

WINNER
Indegoot Entertainment. They have a roster of bands that make up a very large portion of the U.S Hard Rock market, that have proven to be consistent sellers in a recorded music sales market that is contracting instead of expanding. Shinedown, In This Moment, Halestorm, Chevelle, Adelitas Way, Black Stone Cherry, Theory of A Deadman and Story of The Year.

Rock is far from dead when you have rock artists like these. And with a good roster of talent comes power on the live circuit. That is why Indegoot is a winner.

LOSER
Any metal or rock band that is spending months upon months creating their new album and being out of the public consciousness. The modern way is to be in our head space every day. If an artist today takes a break then they are on their way to being forgotten. And you don’t want to be in the news if it is not about your music. No one can forget what their core business is.

Slipknot took almost seven years to release their new album, only to have “The Devil In I” rack up 9.6 million streams. What about the other songs?

Yngwie Malmsteen has delivered a lot of dud albums in the last ten years and he still takes his time before issuing the next one.

WHY?

You would think after one crap album, he would get going with delivering a better song quickly to make amends. Malmsteen can be doing much more to keep in touch with his fan base which doesn’t revolve around issuing ten to twelve songs every two years under his own name.

Take a leaf out of George Lynch’s or Michael Sweets or Marc Tremonit’s or Russell Allen’s playbook.

WINNER
Kevin Churko. Everyone wants to work with him. He is the modern-day version of Tom Werman or Keith Olsen. Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Hellyeah, Papa Roach are all bands that have used the might Churko as producer and on some occasions as songwriter. If you want to use sales as a statistic of reach, then bands produced by Kevin Churko are some of the best sellers in the genre.

LOSER
EVH.

My EVH Peavey 5150 Combo that I purchased back in 1995 is still my favourite amp to record with. So it is a shame that the greatest and most innovative guitarist cannot get it together to deliver new music worthy of his stature. Reading Sammy Hagar’s bio recently cemented my views on EVH who has become a person that is so out of touch with reality and a victim of his own vices. His future without any doubt is with Sammy Hagar as the front man.
WINNER
Allen Kovac’s move from management to the label business has paid off. Eleven Seven Music is another label doing their bit in bringing hard rock back to the masses. Artists involve Hellyeah, Mötley Crüe, Papa Roach, Pop Evil, Sixx:A.M, Nothing More, Art Of Dying, Apocalyptica, Escape The Fate and Drowning Pool.

LOSER
AC/DC without Malcolm Young have lost their foundation. Don’t get me wrong, I love AC/DC and always will. They will make a killing on the live circuit however no one cares for their new music. On top of all that their views about withholding their music from certain digital outlets (while it is available for free on pirate sites) shows how out of touch they are. They are leaving money on the table.

WINNER
Marc Tremonti. He showed the world that he was the brains and driving force behind Creed. He kept his career going with Alter Bridge. He started his own solo band. He went away and mastered the art of shred. His PRS guitars are state of the art and brilliant to play. Trust me on that one as I have one. The PRS through the 5150 is the perfect sound for me.

LOSER
Metallica. They are trying to replicate the corporate deals of U2 and the product saturation of Kiss. This in turn leaves the hard-core fan base squeamish. Meanwhile it has been seven years since they released “Death Magnetic” and music is the very reason why Metallica is in the powerful position they are in right now. However it seems they have forgotten that part of their career. “Lords Of Summer” will most probably be turned into a totally different song however if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t bode well for Metallica as they sit down to write the next album.

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